MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA) — Anyone who was at Mattoon High School on September 20, 2017, won’t soon forget that day. Josiah Lyons fired a gun in the cafeteria hitting a fellow student before he was stopped by a teacher.
Madeline Horath was a senior at the time. She reached out to WCIA to say she and some other survivors feel “justice was served” Monday when now 19-year-old Lyons was sentenced to 25 years for that shooting because he violated an agreement the Coles County State’s Attorney says he made with the court years ago.
Horath still lives in town and passes by her old school regularly, but she doesn’t think she’ll ever walk inside again.
“I can’t lie, even passing by here sometimes is nerve-racking and I feel myself get tense,” the 2018 graduate said, standing outside of the school for the interview.
On that fall day in September 2017, right around lunchtime, Horath heard the shots from a nearby classroom.
“You know how when you’re sleeping at night and you hear something in the distance, and it’s very vague. It was kind of like that,” she explained.
Then, almost immediately, reality began to unfold.
“Our secretary, she came over the intercom and she said that we were in lockdown and this is not a drill. And I could hear her, like, stumbling to put the phone back on the receiver.”
Horath said she and the other students in the science lab first crammed into a supply closet. From there, she tried to reach her dad.
“I remember I was trying to call him and he wasn’t picking up. And I was thinking like, oh you know, what if I don’t get to graduate? What if I don’t get to see my grandma again?” Horath said with emotion in her voice.
“All these things that went through my head.”
Then, hundreds of students — together — ran out of the school and down the sidewalk. Horath vividly remembered the heat and the blisters on her feet.
“Everybody ran. That is the one thing that I think will stay with me forever,” she began.
“We ran out into that hallway and at first, it was quiet. And then all of a sudden I heard, like, hundreds of feet behind me and that was the eeriest thing I think I’ve ever heard in my life. Nobody was saying anything. It was just footsteps and then panting and crying and breathing.”
Lyons is set to spend the next 25 years behind bars for aggravated battery and discharging a firearm. The Class 3 felony would normally come with a sentence of 2 to 5 years.
“It was by agreement,” Coles County State’s Attorney Jesse Danley said of the sentence. “It predates me.”
It’s the harsher of two sentencing options set forth back in 2018. The judge told 15-year-old Lyons that if he got into trouble, he would serve 25 years as an adult.
“It was an agreement for what we call extended juvenile jurisdiction,” Danley explained.
The second sentencing option was implemented following Lyons’ arrest in December. The charge alleged he did not update his address with authorities when he moved back to Mattoon.
“He was sentenced originally and part of that plea was an in-reserve, for lack of a better term, 25-year DOC sentence if he violated. And he violated,” Danley said.
Horath said the updated sentence has brought with it some animosity. She said she feels like some people have been dismissive of the trauma that still lingers around the school.
The victim’s father took the stand in court back in 2018 and said he had no ill will towards Lyons or his family.